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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Where There's No Will, There's No Way

The first "Independence Day" holds a special place in my movie-watching heart. My grandmother owned a VHS copy of the film and we would watch it over and over. We'd watch it together or I would take it home and watch it myself. I'm surprised the tape didn't wear out.

Roland Emmerich's original film came out in 1996. Twenty years later, he has been compelled to dump a sequel into theaters and pray for the same success he found in the 90s (the original movie cost $75 million to make and grossed over $800 million worldwide). Like most sequels, "Independence Day: Resurgence" is bigger, louder, flashier and dumber. The original was no masterpiece, but at least it was fun.

In reviews, we often talk about the justification of a sequel. Some sequels are necessary ("The Godfather: Part II") but most are not. Just looking at this summer, did we really need "Neighbors 2" or "Finding Dory?" No, probably not. But they each had their own merits, which justified their existence and us forking over our money at the box office.

"Independence Day: Resurgence" is the granddaddy of all things unnecessary. "Independence Day" was a staple of 90s-era action filmmaking and a great vehicle for star Will Smith at the peak of his box office reign. A sequel, especially one without Smith, who is seen in pictures and portraits and occasionally talked about, is a mere cash grab.    

There are a lot of discussions of the past in "Independence Day: Resurgence," which seems fitting because how heavily it leans on the success of its predecessor. The sequel is set 20 years after the events of the last film, where an alien invasion had been unsuccessful. Threats of future attacks linger in the minds of the returning characters, including Jeff Goldblum's David Levison and Bill Pullman's Thomas Whitmore, the former president who gave that famous speech. The events of the last invasion continue to haunt Whitmore, who believes danger looms heavily.
Joining the cast are Liam Hemsworth as pilot Jake Morrison, who is engaged to Patricia (Maika Monroe of "It Follows" and the criminally underseen "The Guest"), Whitmore's daughter. Jake and Patricia used to be close with another successful pilot, Dylan Hiller (Jesse T. Usher) but Jake and Dylan have bad blood between them. Dylan has a legacy to carry on, as he is Steven Hiller's son, who was Will Smith's character from the first film.
There is so much going on in "Independence Day: Resurgence," which feels like it has been fattened up just to make a big blockbuster. Too much of the film feels like filler, like it needed to stretch to at least be 120 minutes long because who has ever heard of a 90-minute summer blockbuster?

The film has assembled a cadre of screenwriters - five people wrote this! - who have given us one flimsy story. There are tangents galore, which could have easily been cut from the film and at least we could have had a leaner action film. The movie offers several cringe-inducing moments of attempted humor, along with a wink or two at the last film. (In regards to the oncoming attack, Judd Hirsch's character says something to the tune of "This one is going to be bigger than the last!").

Maestro of destruction Emmerich doesn't care about characters or story and hopes that you don't either (call me crazy but I love a good balance between special effects AND characters to care about). Emmerich just wants to see the world burn, as he has destroyed it numerous times over the course of his movies. "Independence Day: Resurgence" is him doing that again.

He must have missed this series to rebirth it twenty years later. And once we finally make it to the end, there is a strong indication that there may be even more to come.

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